Friday, October 06, 2017

Book Review: Álvaro Siza Architectural Guide

Álvaro Siza Architectural Guide: Built Projects edited by Maria Melo, Michel Toussaint
A+A Books, 2017
Paperback, 240 pages

On a recent trip to Zurich I came across a couple books on the architecture of Álvaro Siza, both published by A+A Books out of Lisbon. One was a case study devoted to his Piscina das Marés in Leça da Palmeira and the other was a guide to 82 of the architect's built projects in Portugal. Unfortunately their expense made buying both impossible. Even though the former project is in my forthcoming 100 Years, 100 Landscape Designs, I opted for the latter for a few reasons. First, perhaps some day I'll make it to Portugal and can use the book to scope out as many of Siza's projects as possible. Second, the book is a great resource with familiar buildings but many that I've never heard of before. Not all of the projects (selected by Siza) are publicly accessible, but they paint a solid picture of Siza's output in his home country over six decades.

The third reason I bought the Álvaro Siza Architectural Guide is the book's design. It is a compact book with lightweight pages that make it easy to carry around. There's plenty of drawings, and the text is provided in English and Portuguese. Yet the most unique aspect are Nuno Cera's color photos, which are trimmed glossy pages inserted into most spreads, at the rate of one photo per project. My blurry shots here show one such example, the São Bento Metro Station in Porto, the city with the highest density of Siza buildings. Although the location of the photos – an even mix of horizontal and vertical formats – at the top of the page gives the book an asymmetrical weight and bulk, the technique turns the photos into something special, forcing readers to pay more attention to them. Furthermore, they can be considered like postcards or photos that people insert into guidebooks after visiting a place; here they are inserted beforehand, enticing people to see the master's projects in person.